City unveils plan to get tough at 4/20 gatherings

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Sup. London Breed: "We need to make the city and streets safe this year."

City officials today announced a "comprehensive plan" to crack down on unpermitted 420 events at Golden Gate Park this Sun/20, saying it was necessary because last year’s debauchery got out of hand. That means more police, both in uniform and plainclothes, will be in the park for the greatest marijuana celebration of the year.

“Last year [on 4/20] we had a lot of challenges,” said Sup. London Breed, who is spearheading this year’s efforts since the park falls in her district. “We need to make the city and streets safe this year. We want people to come and enjoy San Francisco, but we also want them to respect San Francisco.”

The problems Breed was alluding to included underage drinking, traffic congestion, and massive amounts of trash left in the park, especially in the area known as Hippie Hill.

Last year, it took 25 city employees over 12 hours to clean up the five tons of trash left by intoxicated visitors, according to Phil Ginsburg, general manager of San Francisco Recreation and Parks. And because 420 activities are unsanctioned and without an official sponsor, the burden to pay for the cleanup falls upon the city. In 2013, the Department of Public Works spent more than $10,000 to restore Golden Gate Park.

In anticipation of an even larger crowd this year, for both 420 and Easter events happening in the park, the city is gearing up to deal with people and traffic. In addition to deploying additional law enforcement in plainclothes and uniform, officials also plan to ramp up parking control, utilize additional bus services, and employ city workers to direct traffic.

A press release issued by Breed's office indicated that police would take "a strict enforcement approach to all code violations."

But speaking at the press conference, San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr said officers will have zero tolerance for violations such as underage drinking, open containers, selling drugs, unlicensed vendors, and even walking while texting. Noticeably absent from the list of offenses he mentioned was actually smoking marijuana.

“The sale of marijuana is still a felony,” Suhr emphasized, “but I don’t think [the SFPD is] naive enough to believe that we can stop people from smoking on 4/20.”

Captain Gregory Corrales confirmed that maintaining safety is the station’s top priority. Last year there was only one violent incident and eight arrests for selling drugs, but there were zero citations for possession of marijuana.

Pot smoking, which has long been tolerated, if not embraced, in our progressive enclave, was officially deprioritized as a crime by the Board of Supervisors in 2006, barring incidents that involved driving under the influence, minors, or violence. Breed noted that while she does not “condone illegal activities,” she admits that this aspect of the 420 celebration is difficult to control.

So please, stoners of San Francisco, follow the cardinal rule of nature lovers by packing out whatever you pack in. And above all, have a safe and merry holiday.

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